Eden Hazard is sidelined for a month but Luka Jovic will make his La Liga debut when Real Madrid take on Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Saturday.
Real Madrid will be hoping to begin their bid for the La Liga title on a strong note, when they face off against Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Saturday. But, Zinedine Zidane has a bit of an injury crisis on his hands ahead of his side’s season opening fixture.
The Real Madrid boss will be unable to call upon three of the club’s summer arrivals, while Marco Asensio is a long-term absentee for Los Blancos. To make matters even more concerning, Dani Carvajal is expected to be unavailable due to a suspension accrued on the final day last season, although in his pre-match press conference, Zidane spoke of a possible reprieve for the Spaniard.
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“These are things that I don’t control, it’s true that it’s a bit difficult to accept, but what we’re going to do is see what will happen. We’re training and we know that we have the game to play, they could change things and we will wait until the last minute. I don’t think it’s normal, but it is what it is.”
Carvajal is a part of Real Madrid’s travelling squad to face Celta Vigo, but will not feature on Saturday. In his stead, Alvaro Odriozola is expected to be deployed in what is likely to be the right wing-back role, with Zidane interestingly adopting a 3-5-2 formation towards the end of the pre-season campaign.
On the opposite flank, Marcelo is a certain starter, with Ferland Mendy recovering from a hamstring injury. The back-three will comprise of Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Eder Militao, with the defence providing cover to first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
In the middle of the park, there is no looking past the trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos, each of whom will be hoping to improve after their underwhelming displays last term. Up ahead in the strike partnership, Zidane has a plethora of options at his disposal, despite the absence of Eden Hazard (thigh) and Rodrygo (hamstring).
It is Hazard’s absence in particular which can hurt Real Madrid against Celta Vigo, with the Belgian being an ideal fit in the front two playing alongside Benzema. While Benzema is a certain starter, his partner could be one of Luka Jovic, Vinicius Junior and surprisingly Gareth Bale, who Zidane was quizzed about as well.
“It seemed he was leaving and now he’s here with us. The dynamics and things change, but I will count on him. He has a good record and is an important player and I hope that all the players want to make it difficult for me to pick the team.”
Jovic looks the likeliest candidate to start in place of the injured Hazard and like Militao, will make his Real Madrid debut against Celta Vigo, leaving Bale, Vinicius, James Rodriguez, Isco and Brahim Diaz as possible backup options.
Predicted Real Madrid XI: Courtois; Militao, Varane, Ramos; Odriozola, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Marcelo; Jovic, Benzema